Asynchronous Turn-Based MMO

A game called DayZ has been getting a lot of attention lately, and I hope to be able to try it out soon. FPS play can be very exciting and immersive, but I still find myself coming back to turn-based games like TBSes and roguelikes in the end. Turn-based games in multiplayer run into a lot of issues though, just try playing multiplayer Civilization some time. You either have some awkward simultaneous play mode, or have to slog through a play-by-email game that takes months. Ultimately, you’re always stuck waiting for another player, and that’s not particularly fun.

So that got me thinking, why wait? If you’re directly interacting with another player, such as in combat, you want the turn-based gameplay to be seamless. But if you’re alone in the woods, or only fighting AI opponents, why does it matter? I’ve talked before about cell-based map structures, and I got to thinking that something like that would be perfect for an asymmetric or asynchronous MMO.

Basically, the idea is that each individual game cell is a separate time-line. If nothing is going on in a cell, it doesn’t need to age at all (although background processes could probably help keep these going if AI actors are present). If only one player is in a cell, it can age exactly at their pace, so the experience is of a single-player game. If more than one player is active, then it would switch to the multi-player rules. This would probably be a round-robin experience with a time limit on the turn.